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Q’s Reviews – September 18, 2017

Home Again.  This film plays like an extended pilot for a TV sitcom. Reese Witherspoon is Alice, the daughter of a famed Hollywood director and a revered screen actress, Lillian Stewart (Candice Bergen).  Every scene with Candice Bergen rekindled memories of “The Day The Fish Came Out”. Alice has left her profligate husband and moved back to Hollywood to live in her deceased father’s home. She takes in three young men to live in her guesthouse. They aspire to break into show business. The three guys get big assists from Lillian and Alice and of course romances break out everywhere. After a bit of madcap adventures everyone comes to their senses and figures out that they can grab the stardust and still be true to themselves. The film is just a mildly amusing bunch of fluff. Rated PG-13 for some thematic and sexual material.

Viceroy’s House.  It is 1947 and a War worn Britain sends Lord Louis Mountbatten to be the final Viceroy of India. His job is to oversee the transition of British India to independence. The problem is the religious factions, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh will not agree to a united India so partition into India and Pakistan appears inevitable. Partition is anathema to Gandhi and to the British, but the intransigence of Jinnah and Nehru forces monumental change to avoid bloodshed. This major historical event should be enough for a great movie, but alas there is a melodramatic love story that overlays the real drama and cheapens the impact of the message. Individual performances are strong and keep this film from being a complete waste of time. Not rated but would be PG-13 for language.

Dolores. Dolores Huerta is a strong woman whose passions challenge the gender norms of her time and of her Latino culture. She co-founds The United Farm Worker’s Union with fellow organizer, Cesar Chavez.  Their struggle for racial and labor justice soon becomes a national fight with a grape boycott and much more. Gender equality, environmental protection as well as bargaining rights for farm workers become her goals as she tirelessly fights. As she struggles with these bigger issues she is also mother to 11 children, divorces twice and has a long-term relationship. She is savagely attacked by a San Francisco police unit, but survives to lead in her quest for women’s rights and racial and class justice. Dolores is one tough woman who is to be admired.  Find this documentary, learn a bit and enjoy. Not rated but would b PG-13 for some language. It is a Peggy’s Pick.

American Assassin An action thriller that has plenty of blood and guts as young CIA recruit, Mitch Rapp, seeks revenge for the death of his fiancée in a terrorist attack. He is recruited Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) as a black ops assassin.  Rapp is trained by stone cold CIA veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) to be a lethal weapon.  They investigate a series of seemingly disconnected events that lead to the conclusion that terrorists are assembling a nuclear weapon.  From Istanbul to Rome they track down the culprits and figure out the grand scheme to kill multitudes and likely start a massive war in the Middle East. The film requires suspension of reason and sense, but is an escapist treat. Rated R for strong violence throughout, some torture, language and brief nudity.

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Q’s Reviews – September 5, 2017

The Trip To Spain.  In this third and hopefully last installment in the franchise, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon take a road trip through Spain, enjoying food, drink and the sights while chattering away as Marlon Brando, Mick Jagger, Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Roger Moore. This was cute the first time around, but is now boring bordering on churlish. The places they visit are lush and wonderful to see, but that is not enough to save the film. Not rated but who cares.

Tulip Fever. The film is nothing like one would expect from the trailers. It is a love story set in 1634 Amsterdam during a time that the tulip market is making investors rich until it crashes. An old man (Christophe Waltz), his beautiful young wife (Alicia Vikander), their maid, the fishmonger and an up and coming artist all let their sex drive get the best of them as they embark on liaisons and a charade that should have lead to ruin, but instead works out quite well for all concerned. The film is surprisingly entertaining. It combines history, romance, a bit of comedy and plenty of twists and turns to keep your attention as the complex story unfolds. Rated R for language and adult content.

I Do…..Until I Don’t. An imaginative look at the meaning of marriage as seen through the eye of a pompous film documentarian (Dolly Wells), who espouses the view that marriage should be a seven-year contract with an option to renew.   She finds three couples to support her thesis and follows them around with her camera and annoying questions. A young couple trying to have a baby (Lake Bell and Ed Helms) seems to be on the verge of a break-up, but they are more committed than even they realize. An older couple (Paul Reiser and Mary Steenburgen) seems to have lost their fire, but then blaze again. A hippy couple (Amber Heard and Wyatt Cenac) seems to be the ideal couple espousing open relationships but they too have a big surprise. The film is lightweight, predictable but enjoyable for an amusing 90 minutes. Rated R for sexual material and language.

Columbus. Columbus, Indiana is known as the Athens of the Prairie because of its amazingly diverse buildings designed by famous architects. The film is set in Columbus and its buildings are a major part of the film. If you into architecture, this film may be of interest, otherwise it is a slow paced look at family dysfunction. Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) is a local girl with great promise but is stuck in Columbus caring for her recovering meth addict mother. Jin (John Cho) is a Korean who has come to Columbus because his father, a noted architect, is in the hospital with a sudden and severe illness. Casey and Jin connect via a cigarette exchange. As they puff away they slowly help one another to address their parental relationships and to both grow from the experience. The performances are noteworthy, but the film is too much of a drag otherwise. Nor rated but would be R for language and endless smoking.

Patti Cake$. This story is real familiar: young girl is a talented singer and songwriter, but is stuck in a poor family and a dead end job. Her talent is being wasted, but then she connects with some fellow musicians who share her passion and they get a break after all seems lost. Danielle Macdonald plays aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$ – she carries the entire film well. She pulls herself out of her demoralizing hometown in New Jersey. The rap music is harsh and raw, but it also tells her story in shocking detail. Hard to listen to, but fits the environment Patti finds herself in.   Rated R for language throughout, crude sexual references, some drug use and a brief nude image.

Q’s Reviews – July 17, 2017

The Women’s Balcony  This is an Israeli film that celebrates Jewish life while pointing out the dangers of a theocracy.  The film opens with a joyous procession to a bar mitzvah through the streets of Jerusalem.  As the proceedings begin the women’s balcony collapses seriously injuring the Rabbi’s wife.  The synagogue is a wreck and the rebuilding efforts cause a major split in the devout Orthodox community.  The Rabbi’s grief renders him unable to lead the congregation.  A younger Rabbi wheedles his way into a leadership role that ends up pitting the women against the men on how best to restore the congregation.  The film is quite funny at times and also quite poignant as the families work through the issues created by orthodox tradition and modern reality.  The film ends with a joyous wedding celebration that appeared impossible before the grand reconciliation – the circle of life is restored.  Not rated.  In Hebrew with English subtitles.

Despicable Me3.  This cartoon is aimed at kids – drop your kids and grandkids off at the theatre and take a good book to read in the lobby.  Gru (Steve Carrel) discovers he has a long-lost, more successful twin brother Dru (Steve Carrel).  Gru teams up with Dru for one last criminal caper.  The minions are fun; the animation is vibrant but not enough to make up for a weak story line.  Rated PG for action and rude humor.

Lost in Paris.  The film’s original title in French is “Paris Pieds Nus” which translates to Barefoot in Paris, which is a much better title.  Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon are a husband and wife team that wrote, directed and starred in this modern day slapstick comedy.  Fiona (Gordon) is a Canadian librarian who travels to Paris to help her 80+ year old aunt, Martha. When Fiona arrives, Martha is nowhere to be found. Fiona has a series of mishaps that culminate in her falling into the Seine and losing all of her belongings, money and identity documents.  She is desperate and alone in Paris when Dom (Abel) comes to her rescue – sort of.  Dom is homeless and lives in a tent.  They have quite an adventure in Paris as two classic misfits with good souls.  Their Tango is priceless.  Think Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplain and Lucille Ball.  Not rated but would be R for language.  In French and English with subtitles as needed.  This is a very funny and different film that enchants.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

To The Bone.  Lily Collins stars as Ellen, a 20 year-old woman who suffers from anorexia nervosa.  Her family situation is awful with divorced parents and no stability.  Her half-sister is her only rock.  Ellen’s stepmother sets up a consultation with an unconventional doctor (Keanu Reeves) who dares Ellen to recognize her condition and hang on to life.  Ellen moves into a group home with young adults with eating disorders.  The images are disturbing as are the frank discussions of the disease and what it does to people.  The performances are amazing and true to their conditions.  The film is grounded in an awful reality that should be seen.  It will make you angry and root for this kids to get well.  Rated R for language and smoking.  Available on Netflix.

Okja The evil Mirando Corporation run by the slippery Lucy (Tilda Swinton) creates a super pig to feed an overpopulated world.   One pig, Okja, is raised in Korea for ten years and then returned to the company for breeding and slaughter.   A young Korean girl, Mija, has cared for Okja for his life.  They have a special bond.  Mija takes off to save Okja and encounters all sorts of obstacles and support on her mission.  The film is just not interesting as everything is a cliché and predictable.  The film’s pace is languid which leads to boredom.  Rated R for language.  It is available on Netflix.

Q’s Reviews – July 10, 2017

Maudie Maud Lewis (Sally Hawkins) was a genuine Nova Scotia rustic who became a celebrated folk artist.  This film celebrates her life.  Born in 1904 Maud was crippled by juvenile arthritis and had a difficult time in her village.  She took a menial job as a housekeeper for Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) a local curmudgeon.   Their rocky relationship led to marriage and a life long devotion.  Maud liked to paint and created at first post cards and then small paintings of rural scenes.  Along a remote highway they sold her paintings from a small shack where they lived.  Over time she developed quite a following.  Her paintings today are quite valuable.  Hawkins and Hawke bring these two oddball characters alive with Oscar worthy performances.  They recreate a hardscrabble world that no longer exists.   Rated PG-13 for some thematic content and brief sexuality.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

The Little Hours.   Boccaccio’s Decameron, a 14th Century Classic, comes alive in a contemporary romp through a nunnery.   The setting and garb is clearly 14th Century but the language is current vernacular.  It is great fun listening to the young nuns curse out the help and give the priest a dressing down behind his back.  Into this hormone driven and lusty environment the priest secrets a virile young man on the pretext he is a deaf and mute.  Temptation is everywhere and everyone succumbs.  The film pokes fun at hypocrisy of all stripes.   It pulls no punches so may offend some, but it is undeniable funny and creative.  The film features John C. Reilly, Fred Armisen, Nick Offerman Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, and Kate Micucci who set new standards of debauchery.  Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content and language.

Spider-Man:  The Homecoming  Spidey is back with an emphasis on Spider Man as a teenager taking on an adult world.  Interestingly the story lines were more interesting than the action sequences.  Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns home after hanging out with the Avengers.  Living with his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) but under the tutelage of Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), Peter tries to be a normal high school kid while flinging around Manhattan at night as Spider-Man.  His youth and inexperience are causing problems especially when a new super villain The Vulture (Michael Keaton) appears.  He looks to be more then a match for Spider-Man.  But with some help from his friends and super spider strength, Spidey saves the day and the planet.  This film is just pure fun and runs by at a fast pace.  Be sure to stay through the credits.  Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language and brief suggestive comments.

The Hero  The film seems to be custom made for Sam Elliott who stars as Lee Hayden, an aging Western star facing his mortality.  Lee’s hey day was 40 years ago and now he does voice-overs and commercials.  He spends his days smoking pot with his buddy Jeremy (Nick Offerman) and regretting his ruined relationship with his daughter.  He meets a much younger woman, Charlotte (Laura Prepon), who is able to touch his soul and get him to recognize his mortality and to start to heal his relationship with his daughter and ex-wife.  The film is an elegy to lost opportunity.  Rated R for lots of drug use, language and some sexual content.

Q’s Saturday Afternoon Movie Reviews – Better Late Than Never

Baby Driver.   A clever mating of great music and over the top car chases.   Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a young guy who has a remarkable ability to drive a car.  He is hearing impaired so continuously listens to classic rock and drives even better when he gets into the music’s groove.  Baby has been coerced by Doc (Kevin Spacey) to drive the getaway car from a series of carefully planned bank heists.  Baby thinks he is done with Doc and ready to drive off into the sunset with his gal Debora (Lily James) when Doc threatens him back for one more job.  The last band of bank robbers, (Jamie Fox and Jon Hamm) are especially thuggish and cause the heist to go off the rails.  Baby and Debora cleverly escape and set the world right with their love.  Great chase scenes and great music make this one to see.   Rated R for violence and language throughout.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

The Big Sick.   A modern romantic comedy that has many laugh out loud moments while handling contemporary cultural clashes well.  The basic story is how Kumail Nanjani, playing himself, met his wife Emily Gordon (Zoe Kazan).  They co-wrote the script so it really is their story. Kumail is from a traditional Pakistani family and is expected to marry a woman chosen by his parents.  Emily is an All American girl that does not fit into the Pakistani mold.  They have their ups and downs as Kumail hides their relationship from his family.  Emily shares everything with her family. Emily becomes seriously ill and is placed in an induced coma to save her life.  Kumail and Emily’s parents have to deal with Emily’s sickness and discover truth in the process.  Honesty can be brutal and funny all at the same time, which is what makes this film one to see.  Rated R for language including some sexual references.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time.   This Tony award winning play is at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco through July 23, 2017.   The play is told from the perspective of Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy who self styles himself as “a mathematician with some behavioral difficulties”.  He lives outside of London with his father.   Though never overtly identified, it is clear he is living with high-functioning autism and is a math savant.  Christopher cannot tell a lie but can those around fabricate many a false story.  As Christopher navigates himself through the lies he learns a lot about what it is to be human and we learn what it is like to live with autism and a brain that can overwhelm.  This is a real treat and a must see.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.  Note it is not for young children.

The Beguiled.   Atmosphere and mood are the defining traits of this movie.  Director Sofia Coppola took what was meant to be a thriller and turns into a film about isolation and the power women can have.  Set at a girl’s school near Richmond, Virginia late in the Civil War, the young students have been sheltered from the outside world by their headmistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman).  A wounded Union soldier (Colin Farrell) is found on the grounds and taken in.  He is ruggedly handsome and is on the mend when he takes advantage of the young girls’ loneliness and has his way with them.  Rivalries erupt but the women recognize who the enemy is and take their revenge in a most unexpected way.  Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning are quite good as the women scorned, but otherwise the film is just filtered sunlight. Rated R for some sexuality.

The House.   Will Farrell (Scott) and Amy Poehler (Kate) should be ashamed of themselves.  Scott and Kate had planned to send their daughter to Bucknell for college on their town’s scholarship.  But the scholarship is abruptly cancelled so they have no money to send their daughter to university.  Of course they start an illegal casino to raise the college funds.  Everything goes wrong and becomes quite tiresome.  They couldn’t even use the real Bucknell for the college scenes.  Rated R for language throughout, sexual references, drug use, some violence and brief nudity.

Q’s Reviews – June 26, 2017

Rough Night.   Oh Scarlett!  How can you lend your talents to such a lowbrow film?  Five best gal-friends from college converge on Miami for a wild bachelorette weekend.  It has been ten years since their hard drinking and partying days.  Jess (Scarlet Johansson) is the bride.  They hire a male stripper for a bit of fun and promptly kill him.  Everything goes off the rails as they try to cover up the death but that leads to even more complications and then insanity.  Somehow the fates are on their side and everything works out for the best.  What should be hilarious is excruciating to watch.  Rated R for crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and brief bloody images.

Transformers: The Last Knight  This is the fifth installment in the Transformers series, and hopefully the last.  The script wanders all over the landscape starting with medieval battle scenes and lore.  Talismans and ancient artifacts are the keys to survival for both humans and the transformers – kind of odd for seemingly high-tech creations.  Oh well, the CGI is pretty good and lots of things blow up but otherwise a waste of 2½ hours.  Rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of sci-fi action, language, and some sexual innuendo.

Becoming Cary Grant.  A unique documentary that follows the career of Cary Grant as he leaves England as Archie Leach and transforms himself into the film icon, Cary Grant.  Lovers of film will enjoy the behind the scenes revelations.  Lovers of history will see the 20th Century as seen through the eyes of a remarkable and talented man.  Utilizing archival interviews and Cary Grant’s own words from an incomplete autobiography, Grant’s story comes alive and will surprise.  From a humble childhood in Bristol, England, to vaudeville, to Broadway to film and international fame we watch Gary Grant invent himself and then question what he had done.  Now available on Showtime.

Q’s Reviews – June 19, 2017

Churchill.   The film follows Winston Churchill the days just before D-Day 1944; but there is a huge problem.  The crux of the drama is that Churchill tried to scuttle D-Day just as the troops were poised to invade fortress Europe.  Churchill was convinced another Gallipoli was at hand.  But this is woefully inaccurate.  Churchill was involved in the D Day planning and backed the decision to go on June 6, 1944.  But if you can overlook the historical inaccuracy, this is an interesting look at a great man who was also dogged by depression but with the support of his wife, his family and friends he fulfills his historic destiny.  Seeing Brian Cox as Churchill and Miranda Richardson as Clementine is worth the price of a ticket.  Rated PG for thematic elements, brief war images, historical smoking throughout, and some language.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.

Beatriz at Dinner.   This is a bit of a heavy handed modern morality play that misses its mark.  Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a holistic healer.  She seems to have extraordinary empathy and can channel the life force.  After she has a healing session with a rich woman in Newport Beach, her car breaks down.  As it is late, she is invited to spend the night and have dinner with the family and some of their business associates.  Beatriz has had a few too many glasses of wine and butts heads over dinner with an arrogant real estate developer (John Lithgow) and the sparks fly.  She sees him as the devil incarnate despoiling the earth and becoming wealthy at the expense of others.  He is an obvious Trump like figure, charismatic, manipulative and only interested in personal gain and adulation.  Their set-tos are fun to watch, but in the end are just words with no resolution.  Rated R for language and a scene of violence.

The Book of Henry.   The film is a marvel of misdirection.  Susan (Naomi Watts) is a single suburban mother working in a local diner.  Her co-worker, Sheila (Sarah Silverman) is a spirited family friend, especially after too much to drink.  Susan has two sons:  Peter is a good-natured 8-year-old and Henry age 11, is quite precocious taking care of Susan, Peter, the family finances and keeps the family on an even keel.  Henry discovers that the girl next door, Christina, is abused by her stepfather.  Henry tries to report the abuse but is frustrated by the system, which fails to protect Christina.  Henry has tremendous obstacles to overcome, but enlists the help of his mother to orchestrate an elaborate plan to save Christina. The grand scheme is fascinating as it plays out in surprising ways.  Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language.  It is a Peggy’s Pick.